"In this age of decadence people love antiques and willingly submit to deception."
—Cheng Hsieh, 18th-century Chinese poet and painter
Anyone who fondly supposes that the Chinese Communists are the "good" Communists should read this exciting, powerful book by the Belgian sinologist Pierre Ryekmans, writing under his nom de plume, Simon Leys. As far back as 1974, Leys's book Chinese Shadows (originally published in French; translated into English in 1977) was the first by a Western sinologist to tell the truth about the "Cultural Revolution": that it represented a chaotic explosion of totalitarianism run amuck, undermining virtually all Chinese values, both moral and aesthetic. It took immense courage for Leys to issue his passionate yet elegant cri de coeur. Why? Because most other sinologists and "China Watchers" were then engaged in the same self-delusory intoxication with the Great Idea that had entrapped so many intellectuals decades earlier with regard to the Soviet Union. I personally know scholars in the China field who would stop talking to a colleague who said anything kind about Chinese Shadows.
But surely, one would think, now that the CCP itself has admitted that horrors were perpetrated during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the way has been cleared for the...